Are TV News People Worth What They Are Getting Paid?

I’m bringing over a thread from a previous post as it seemed to spark some interest and a number comments have been posted.  A question was asked about a high profile anchor from Philadelphia who was given the boot from the CBS O & O after an incident in New York.  The anchor, Alycia Lane, was fired (I think management was looking for an excuse to get rid of her after some recent shenanigans she was involved in).  She hired an attorney and it appears they (Lane) have a good case about her dismissal.  But what prompted the post was the fact that AL supposedly was making 700-thousand which the poster was asking if she indeed made that much.  According to the info on the web, yes she is making that much.  That prompted some questions about how much anchors in Memphis were making and some high numbers were tossed out for some folks over at WMC.  That then raised the question of whether anchors could command those salaries if they weren’t leading Number 1 newscasts.  Well, I would suppose that a contract is a contract and no one is going to try to change that until it wraps up.  (We’ve been relying on The GM to weigh in with a view from management on this issue and will do so again as we appreciate his perspective.) However, I would imagine it would be a hard sell come contract renegotiation time to command a big boost unless you’ve got ratings numbers to back it up. Even then, unless the economy rebounds, I would imagine management would look at making some cost cutting measures.  There’s no doubt that folks who have been in the market for a while and can deliver an audience are worth some bucks.  But I think it’s safe to say that the days of writing big checks for anchors are wrapping up.  They were reining that in before I left and I’m sure the trend has escalated.  Yes, some news people are paid more than they are worth while others are not paid nearly enough.  It’s all about timing, what the managers think and sometimes a great agent to help negotiate.  And then there are those news people that we all wish we could buy for what they worth and sell for them for what they THINK they are worth and then we’d all retire.  But, that’s a post for yet another day.

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12 Comments on “Are TV News People Worth What They Are Getting Paid?”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    Big markets, big revenue, big money. I can see it being like sports. Top talent (or what is perceived as such) can command major pay. If a GM or ND thinks they’re getting someone who will draw viewers (bringing more eyeballs to ads), they’ll be willing to pay.

    I can’t speak to that from a paycheck point of view, since that concept rarely applies to reporters — except for Andy Wise, who turns on the TV to see a reporter? I worked this market for 8 years and a lot of people still didn’t know my name — so I never expected big money to come my way — and it didn’t!!!!

    With revenues down and stations tightening belts, will the checkbooks close? I doubt it. The competition for viewers will make the people who own and run stations even more anxious (desperate, really), and therefore willing to spend the money on a face, a voice, a hairstyle (or some combination) that they hope will draw those viewers. Goodness knows, they don’t watch because of the news — they could just go online or scan the metro section of the daily paper for that.

  2. The GM Says:

    I never took you to be sexist. Just because I’m the GM doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a man . . . doesn’t mean I’m not but don’t assume 🙂

    The GM

  3. joelarkins Says:

    Nuff said. lol

  4. JD Says:

    Joe, didn’t mean to open a can of worms with the Alycia Lane question! Whoosh!
    I didn’t know that on air talent could command such money for simply reading a prompter or script! The GM mentioned it might not have been 700 grand, but maybe slightly lower. Still a lot of coins.

    My next question to you both is how is the on air talent selected or hired? Is the background search extensive or just cursory? AND do you mean to tell me Anchors have agents!?!

    I also noticed you compared Austin Onek on the other thread. Remember, he was kind of picked on in that no-hype commercial for Fox. (Fellow with the glasses and hair style. No others wear glasses on air at the other stations) In the vein of anchors, he filled in for the weekend morning crew doing the news when they apparently were late. He did a pretty good job hitting it cold.

  5. joelarkins Says:

    Talent gets paid whatever they can get. Some get a whole lot more than others because of talent and commitment while others get paid a lot because they happened to be in the right place at the right time. Still other deserving, hard working folks get a pat on the back and an “atta boy”. I think this culture sometimes leads to what I call the “diva” attitude among some (this would apply to male and female equally). But I still think the days of of really big paychecks for anchors are fading as they don’t have the longevity they once had and the money isn’t as forthcoming as it once was. I may be wrong but I think the loyalty isn’t there like it used to be except in rare occasions. On either side. Maybe I’ve gotten too cynical.
    As for how talent is hired, I think it’s a matter of timing and circumstance. I’ve seen some stations go through exhaustive searches and feedback sessions to hire someone for the anchor chair. I’ve also seen cases (DOTR) where one person was hired merely because she looked great. The ND basically brought the person on board even though she couldn’t report and the fact he was advised to go with someone with more experience fell on deaf ears. He hired the person, sent her out with the chief videographer who taught her what to do in the field in the way of reporting and very shortly thereafter she was anchoring. Did she do a good job? Well, she got the attention of the viewer. Was she easy to work with. I didn’t think so and neither did some in the newsroom. Apparently HR dreaded her regular visits and complaints of unfair treatment.
    Do anchors have agents in the Memphis market. Yes and so do some reporters but I’m not sure how effective they are. I’ve never had one and always heard mixed results on whether or not they were worth hiring.
    As for Austen Onek, he’s a great guy with a sense of humor that can be as dry as a desert wind and can be as deadpan as a skillet. I’m not picking on him in my photos. He just happened to be first on the list. Expect others to be shared in the near future.

  6. Doug J. Says:

    Come to think of it, I think I was hired for my looks. I think they had too many good-looking people already! Woo! Thanks for coming out tonight folks!

  7. Ready Camera One, Take Two Says:

    The sociologist in me says we’re following the trend of the “jack of all trades master of none” world we live in. Everyone can shoot. Everyone can edit. Everyone can anchor. Less is more. More is less. (“I always wanted to fix a transmission, boss.”) However, it is interesting that the news channels have more anchors than the U.S. fleet. Not just anchors but the substitute anchors. What do they do between shows…go to hairspray school…online courses from Max Factor University? Think of how much ozone depletion could be avoided by eliminating hairspray just in the anchor community alone. Also, in helping with resume tapes for various local anchors and anchorettes many of them do have agents. So the best news jobs to have are as a consultant or agent.
    And one more thing on the look alike topic…Andy Wise and Rod Starns…you never see them at the same time. Perhaps…

  8. Jay Swafford Says:

    #4 mkt anchors pull down 700K?
    thats all?
    i’d feel cheated…

    the Nashville mkts highest paid anchor (its rumoured) works for WKRN-2 (ABC affilliate) & is the #3 station (sometimes #4) in most books.

    Does this make sense?

    No one is watching this station…but, this anchor contues to make the BIG BUCKS! Young Broadcasting (the owner) is rumored to be cutting 5million from this Nashville station….coul there be an anchor missing from the desk in the near future? Just speculating.

    your old radio pal

  9. The GM Says:

    People are paid what the market will bear, not what they are worth.

    The GM

  10. Apple Smarts Says:

    It’s interesting, I’ve been at my first on-air job for about 6 months. I was a one-man-band bureau reporter, got promoted to weekend anchor/producer, now I only one-man-band three times a week…but still, it’s a lot of freaking work and as I’m sure you know, with that first market VERY LITTLE pay.

    Now you’re telling me I may never get the big bucks?

    It’s upsetting.

  11. joelarkins Says:

    Welcome to the world of TV news. Oh, there is a chance you can earn some serious money if you work hard, move every three or four years until you get to a larger market where someone wants to pay you to stay. But there is also a very good chance that you will burn out and decide to quit and get a real job that doesn’t require you to move around and the hours are better and more conducive to family life. Or you can switch from news to sales or sales management and move up through the ranks where the real money in TV is. Look around the parking lot and look to see which group drives the expensive cars: sales or news people. At WREG the Benz, Lexus and the Beamers were either driven by sales people or interns from Ole Miss.

  12. Doug J. Says:

    Hey, I worked hard, moved every 3 or 4 years and got to a larger market, and I never made more than $35K as an on-air type… (ooh, all of a sudden, I’m really depressed). I made a lot more in management and off-air jobs. But Apple Smarts, that’s not to say you won’t score — a lot of folks do. It’s luck, looks and location; if you’ve got all 3, you should be okay with a lot more hard work.

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